ODION IGHALO: A CASE OF LOVE OVER MONEY; REJECTS SHANGHAI’S $131M CONTRACT

The Chinese Super League club of Odion Ighalo has offered the Nigerian striker a $131million contract. But he feels more at home with pay cut at Manchester United than taking the Chinese megabucks.

He has four more days to secure his Manchester United future as he seeks to choose his boyhood club over money again.

The 30-year-old’s loan deal expires on Sunday and he will have to return to Shanghai Shenhua, who have offered him a new 31/2-year contract worth over £75 million (S$131.2 million), unless there is a breakthrough in negotiations between the Chinese Super League (CSL) outfit and United.

Brazilian Fred joins in the celebrations after Nigerian Odion Ighalo opens accounts for United in their 5-0 win in the first leg of their Europa League last-16 tie against Austria’s Lask on March 12. It was United’s last game before the coronavirus crisis stalled the football season.

The new deal would make him the eighth-highest paid footballer in the world – excluding endorsements. Yet the Nigeria striker wants to remain at Old Trafford after joining the club from Shanghai on a four-month loan in January.

According to The Times of London, United wish to keep Ighalo until the end of their season, but Shanghai want him back unless the English club fork out £20 million. United, fifth in the English Premier League, are however not keen on signing him permanently, although United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has reportedly not given up on a loan extension.

With the Red Devils still in the FA Cup and Europa League, Ighalo could feature in as many as 18 games in just over two months.

Should his dream stint – condensed into 25 days – come to an end, he will leave United with a blemish-free record.

He has never been on the losing side in eight appearances, contributing to six wins and two draws. He scored four goals in three starts. In the 356 minutes he was on the pitch, United netted 12 times and did not concede a single goal.

Few United fans would have predicted such an output from him when he took a pay cut to secure a move on deadline day.

United signed the former Watford striker to provide cover for Marcus Rashford, who had suffered a back injury a fortnight earlier, and paid a third of his £300,000 weekly wages.

But Rashford’s return means that Solskjaer will have a full complement of strikers to choose from should the Premier League restart next month, as Anthony Martial and Mason Greenwood are also fit.

Ighalo returned for training with United last week, but his next competitive outing could be in the CSL.

The CSL season was supposed to begin on Feb 22 but has been postponed indefinitely and could restart in late June or early July.

Ighalo’s impact at United, however, extends beyond his contributions on the pitch. As clubs face the financial realities of the pandemic, he has proven that the club do not necessarily have to splurge on a striker when the transfer window reopens.

Solskjaer wants to bring in another striker then, with Lyon’s Moussa Dembele among his targets, reported The Times.

-Straits Times, Singapore